By Tonya Veal
Photo: © Great Bustard Group
Could you imagine seeing your younger brother or sister flying through the air? That is what it must look like to someone watching the Great Bustard in flight.
Weighing in at a whopping 35 pounds, the Great Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in the world. The heaviest of all Great Bustards tipped the scales at a shocking 46 pounds. That is the weight of two toddlers. Female bustards usually weigh a third of what males do, and the average female is 6 to 11 pounds.
Four feet long with a wingspan up to 8 feet wide, this bird is an impressive sight in flight. You would think the weight would slow the Great Bustard down, but this amazing bird can fly at speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour.
Great Bustards live for 10 to 15 years. Female bustards may become mothers at 2 or 3 years of age. Each female bustard lays 2 to 3 eggs and keeps them warm for about 3 weeks until they hatch. After the baby bustards are born, the mothers take care of the baby birds without help from the male bustards.
When frightened, the Great Bustard runs rather than flies. Getting up in the air is not easy when the bustard is rushed. Flying is reserved for when the Great Bustard has time for a leisurely take-off.
The adult male bustard is brown above his neckline and white below. He sports a long grey neck and head. Chestnut tones appear on the breast and lower back area. The Great Bustard walks like a distinguished gentleman to show off his handsome colors. This bird is not afraid to strut his stuff.
The Great Bustard calls open grasslands home. At feeding time, bustards feast on a meal of seeds, insects and small creatures like beetles and frogs. How delicious!
Bustards have existed for approximately 50 million years. Unfortunately, the Great Bustard population is dying because of destruction of some of its natural grassland habitat. Several countries in Europe are starting programs to help preserve the lands where Great Bustards live. For example, in June 2009 for the first time since 1832, the Great Bustard nested in the United Kingdom with two females successfully hatching chicks.
You can read more about the British project here: http://www.greatbustard.com/press%2002%20Jun%2009.html
That’s a BIG BIRD!
This story about Great Bustards is the last in a series of stories about big birds in America, which has already looked at Trumpeter Swans, American White Pelicans, Whooping Cranes and California Condors.
Click here to read Trumpeter Swans -- Mates for Life
Click here to read Sneaky Scoopers -- the Pelican Story
Click here to read That’s a Big Bird! Whooping it up
Click here to read Colossal Condors--the largest flying land bird